“Words without thoughts never to Heaven go.” – Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 3. William Shakespeare

It is always right to have a just intention if not noble when a humble public servant tries to say something he thought to be important if not beneficial to the inhabitants of the islands and islets of Palawan so that the ears of the sitting Gods in the Palace of Malacañang in imperial Manila would listen.

Early this year, Palawan News carried a news report entitled: “Board members revive call for Malampaya shares”. In the report, I found the words of the board members as timely and meritorious.

Ryan Maminta sought to stir discussions on how to obtain funds from the Camago-Malampaya proceeds, with the help of Palawan’s congressional representatives. Other board members including Winston Arzaga and Ariston Arzaga supported Maminta’s call.

A way to understand the Malampaya fund is to take a look at the decision of the Supreme Court en banc on G.R. No. 170867 which retired associate justice Noel Tijam penned the decision.

What Tijam explained on the decision was that: “… the Court finds that the Province of Palawan’s remedy is not judicial adjudication based on equity but legislation that clearly entitles it to share in the proceeds of the utilization of the Camago-Malampaya reservoir.”

How inelegant it was for our political leaders to have argued before the Highest Court discussing nothing but money when in fact former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was already legally giving out financial assistance to the province of Palawan.

Based on facts published on the Official Gazette, on February 1, 2005, former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita signed the Executive Order No. 405 which authorized the release of funds from the net government share from Service Contract No. 38 over the Camago-Malampaya natural gas reservoir as assistance to the province of Palawan, in the amount of P10 million for the construction of additional facilities and acquisition of additional medical equipment for the Provincial Health Office, and P40 million for the concreting and installation of a drainage system of the Poblacion to Lio Airport road in the Municipality of El Nido.

On March 1, 2004, President GMA signed Executive Order No. 254-A to make another release of Malampaya funds as assistance to the priority development project of the province of Palawan that had a back up resolution of the Sanggunian Panlalawigan:

a. P20 million for the purchase of land for relocation of the landless of Puerto Princesa City;

b. P5 million for Livelihood Program for Market Vendors, Puerto Princesa City;

c. P20 million for the widening and drainage improvement of Rizal Avenue, Puerto Princesa City;

d. P30 million for the concreting of the Iwahig-Sta. Lucia section of the Palawan South Road in the City of Puerto Princesa;

e. P11.9 million for the construction of the Barangay Convergence Center in the City of Puerto Princesa;

f. P12 million for the PGMA Scholarship Program for the tuition fees for four years of 1,000 students of petroleum engineering, agriculture and fisheries, environmental protection and management, tourism and similar courses offered by the State Universities located in the Province of Palawan, as follows:

i. Seven Hundred students from the Palawan State University; and ii. 300 students from the Western Philippines University;

g. P10 million for the construction of additional facilities for the Ospital ng Palawan Provincial Hospital;

h. P10 million for the construction of the Palawan State University building;

i. P40 million for the acquisition of land and development of the El Nido Municipal Airport;

j. P15 million for Barangay Electrification Projects;

k. P6 million for the construction of Municipal Buildings in the Municipalities of Agutaya and Cagayancillo, in the amount of Three million each;

l. P43.1 million for Barangay Livelihood Programs, in the amount of P100,000 for each of the 431 barangays of the Province of Palawan; and

m. P69 million for Municipal Livelihood Programs in the amount of P3 million for each of the 23 municipalities of the Province of Palawan.

Then on December 8, 2003, Executive Order No. 254 was signed by President GMA Macapagal-Arroyo which was authorizing the release of funds from the net government share from the Service Contract 38 over the Camago-Malampaya natural gas reservoir as assistance to the province of Palawan so the President just ordered the DOE to identify and submit the list of priority development projects in the province of Palawan in the total amount of Three hundred million pesos to the Department of Budget and Management for release of funds direct to the DOE.

GMA’s order was clear about the P300 million would be allocated for priority development projects for the Province of Palawan to be divided into three equal portions among the following: the implementation of the roads and school buildings program and barangay projects for the 1st Congressional District; the implementation of the roads and school buildings, program and barangay projects for the 2nd Congressional District; and approved priority development projects of the Provincial Government of Palawan.

Then on July 26, 2001, a Memorandum Order No. 22 was signed by President GMA which was approving the use of P155 million (plus accrued interest) from the Special Fund of the Department of Energy (DOE) for the security and protection of the Camago-Malampaya natural gas project and the implementation of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001.

Cited in the MO 22, that in a Memorandum of Agreement dated May 31, 1995, the DOE transferred an amount of P178 million from the Special Fund to the Department of National Defense to fund the construction of benchmarks and lighthouses in the Kalayaan Islands Group.

It was explained that the amount of P178 million was reduced to P155 million when the amount of P23 million was remitted to the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) to fund the acquisition of satellite imagery of the Kalayaan Islands Group, hydrographic or geophysical and geotechnical boring at the Nares Bank, Marie Louise and Baybayin Dagat Shoal (Kalayaan Islands Group), production of nautical maps, charting and mapping of the area.

So that was the manner how the Malampaya the P20 billion funds were released left and right to Palawan by GMA during her tenure as President. No had one complained.

Meanwhile, on former President Noynoy Aquino’s disbursements, I could not find a single entry in the Official Gazette that President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd had made use of the multi-billion Malampaya funds while he was in office.

I could still remember that Aquino also dipped his hands into the coffers of Malampaya fund so I just relied on the Google search engine to find Aquino’s disbursements using the Malampaya funds that was estimated P15,255,416,490.

This P15 billion was spent on the following 10 listed national projects of Aquino: Fuel requirement of National Power Corporation (NPC)-Small Power Utilities- P2 billion; Public Transport Assistance Program (PTAP) – Pantawid Pasada – P300 million; PTATP Pantawid Pasada – P150 million; Acquisition/ Transfer pf USCGC Hamilton – P423,063,900; Fuel requirement, genet lease/rental/ and half of capital expenditures requirements of NPC-Small Power Utilities Group – P1,624,500,000; Upgrade of capability requirement for 2011 relative to the security of the Malampaya Natural Gas-to-Power Project – P4,954,580,167; Sitio Electrification Project – P814,411,357; NPC’s short term loan facility with LBP (Missionary Electrification) – P3 billion; Barangay Line Enhancement and Sitio Electrification Projects _ P1,108,245,890; and Transfer, dry-docking and periodic hull maintenance costs of Weather High Endurance Cutter Class Vessel – P880,615,176.

Malampaya fund was estimated to be P124 billion, according to the DOE during budget deliberation in Congress on September 2021.

That was how the situation before the decision of the Supreme Court came out in 2018. Palawan could get huge financial assistance from the President, but our men in the Capitol then were insatiable and no contentment of what they had received that they decided to go to court. As the Tagalog proverb goes: “Naghangad ng kagitna, isang buo ang nawala,”

In retrospect, with all the mess and whatever benefits and dirty politics brought by Malampaya funds in Palawan, the Camago-Malampaya fund now lies in the sole discretion of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr,. No one else.

And so here are the politicians again talking about the proceeds and benefits of Malampaya natural gas project. There’s nothing wrong when politicians of Palawan think about what benefits of Malampaya fund could bring, that is only if they really think right. And to think right is to prepare a justifiable list of development projects for the various baranggays in mainland and island municipalities to uplift the level of livelihood of the local residents in the barrios.

Since the matter is political in nature, those who would be asking something from President Bongbong Marcos regarding the infamous Malampaya funds must come with clean hands. Lastly, I want to remind those pretentious political leaders who already dipped their hands in the past in the coffers of Malampaya they will face rejection by the President’s men.